Scanners & Cell Phones

Do they actually sell scanners that can pick up cell phones like the scanners that pick up Police & Fire calls??

I’m very bored and nosey

No, it can’t happen.
By the way, your mom called.

I used to set my police scanner to pick up all the cordless phones on my block (before the days of 900MHz. I also had a asked someone (my uncle who’s a cop) for a list of police radio freqs and on the list it gave out numbers for cell phones and pagers. The pager freqs are useless (for my purposes anyways) but I could get cell phones to come in once in a while. So to answer your question, yes. Actually your basic police scanner will pick up cell phones and cordless phones. It’s just a matter of knowing what freqs to scan though. They’re much different from the police freqs.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Actually, there really isn’t a lot to worry about with respect to the retail scanner market. Someone will buy one and modify the programming lock-outs on the cellular bands, or–not to give you undue grief–someone will construct one of their own from readily available components. An amazingly easy task.

Simply keep in mind that you are using the public airwaves; and that you have no guarantee that you will not be listened to; and tailor your conversations accordingly.

Yes, some of the conversations are an absolute riot, but federal law prohibits me from discussing the material content with you.

(The Original EnigmaOne)
Common ¢ for all ages.

I am under the impression that analog phones are relatively easy to scan, but digital ones are not.
Anyone know if this is true?

The way I understand it, analog phones send out waves that are basically directly realted to sound waves. Where as digital takes whatever comes into the microphone and converts it into number (kinda like a modem) and sends that out. So in order to pick up a digital phone you would need a digital scanner. (if you pick up a digital phone on a regular scanner it would probably sound something like a modem) Also because digital phones came out so much later then regular phones, technology has had time to advance so we now have more scrambling techniques and better security methods. (Please keep in mind this is not all neccisarily factual info but more or less my understanding on the subject. So it’s probably not right.)

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Let’s not forget - the practice of eavesdropping on cellular (or any other, for that matter) phone calls is illegal in most (if not all) jurisdictions in the U.S.

Let us omit from our discussion methods whereby this illegal practice can be or is accomplished.

The Straight Dope and The Chicago Reader do not support or condone electronic eavesdropping of any nature.

GQ Mod for The Straight Dope

It used to be possible to listen in on mobile phones (I have no idea if it still is or not, nor did I ever actually do so). The phone company got wise to this (sometime back in the 70s, I think) and flooded the mobile phone frequency with a carrier wave whenever it wasn’t being actively used, so anyone trying to monitor it got a loud droning sound most of the time.

Digital “cellular” phones, at least the CDMA kind, use a scrambling algorithm. With the proper equipment you could listen in, but from what I understand you’re going to get something that sounds a lot more like random noise than like a conversation.

Remember at one Hamvention talking to a couple of people with HandyTalkies (Hand Held Ham Radio’s) listening to the Cell bands. Fairly clear sounding. Mind you this was back before digital. As to the dgital, to make software that could interpret the signal is probably pretty easy, and my understanding is that the encryption used by Cell phones is a rotating shift xor 160 bit key (NSA mandated in US). Which is fairly weak given a decent sized sample. Probably could not crack it real time, but there undoubtably are programs that could do it in a few minutes. Mind you, my information on the crypto is a few years old, so things might be different now, probably worse than 160 bit.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes

The phone company got wise to this (sometime back in the 70s, I think) and flooded the mobile phone frequency with a carrier wave whenever it wasn’t being actively used, so anyone trying to monitor it got a loud droning sound most of the time.

Kinda funny cuz under certain circumstances that makes it easier to filter out active channels from dead ones.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

On scanners with single conversion I.F. stages, and covering the 800mhz band, it is fairly common for cell phones (analog only) to be clearly heard.
As more police forces shifted their frequencies to the 800mhz band, the triple conversion I.F. stages became more popular, probably because folks would rather listen in on the local police force than listen to some idiot have “phone sex” while he’s sitting in Wal-Mart parking lot.
My take on this: If you have something to say to someone that nobody else should hear, drive over to that someone’s office and say it.(Unless his name is Nixon)

I have a Radio Shack scanner, and yes, when I get bored (I had to have something to fill in the empty spot left when Melrose Place went off the air), I set it to scan a certain block of frequencies. As I understand it, this only work with scanners that have 100 or more channels, or so I was told - I dunno.

I can also set it to a different block of frequencies to pick up neighborhood cordless phones, and let me tell you, I have enough dirt on this little Mormon community out in the country that I could write a book.

You would be amaze at what I have heard on the cell channels. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that there are quite a few affairs, drug deals, screaming fights, and other interesting things going on over the airwaves.

Two of my favorites are the kid (sounded about 16) hiding under the Christmas tree, opening his gifts and describing over the phone to his cousin what each one was. Every once in a while his excitement would get loud enough for his dad to hollar at him to see what he was doing. Sounds boring, but the kid’s excitement and sneakiness was priceless.

Me and a girlfriend were sitting at my table drinking coffee late one Saturday night. Some drunk was driving around town calling everyone he knew to come out and party with him. He succeeding in pissing off all of his friends and got hung up on over and over. Eventually, he got an answering machine and left his name and number. We ended up calling him and messed with his head. We told him that we were in another car watching him and that he was driving really bad. We also told him that the cops were following him. We freaked him out enough that he started to cry, but hell, we got him off the road.

I am nosy, what can I say? :slight_smile:


Coarse and violent nudity. Occasional language.

For a while there was a big scandal type thing going around because a bunch of computers had been stolen from people and from our school. Well the kids who did it (or involved in one way or another) always talked to each other over there cordless phones. So of course I always knew who had the computers, whose house they were, what the alabis where, where they were gonna ditch them at. Oh it was great. Or the time I go my next door neigbors phone to come in and I though it would be funny to shine a laser pointer in her bedroom. She though it was a gun. That was great.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Enough with the stories though, lets just answer the question

Yes, yes they do.

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Of course they can. There was someone who had set up a scanner to pick up cell phone conversations, and they hooked it up to their computer and broadcast the conversations over MP3.

A friend of mine who works in the pager business says cell-phone listening is big with government investigation folks. What they’re not listening to in real time they’re taping.
When you use a cell phone you should assume you’re being monitered. Ask the mafia bosses who are in the slammer.